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Sleep Deprivation & Heart Health: Here’s What You Need To Know

Getting the recommended hours of sleep is essential for maintaining the body's ability to perform various day to day tasks. Good sleep enables the body to repair itself, and supports several important biological processes necessary for maintaining our physical, emotional and mental well being such as glucose metabolism, blood pressure regulation, cell repair et al.
So, what happens to the body because of sleep deprivation?
It's no unknown fact that lack of adequate sleep is bad for one's health. Apart from tiredness and difficulty in concentration, sleep deprivation also increases various health risks like:
type 2 diabetes
hormonal changes
high blood pressure
impairs immune system
reduced cognitive ability
anxiety, restlessness and other mental health issues
higher risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases.
How does lack of sleep affect the heart?
The less you sleep, the higher the risk your heart faces. Various studies conducted by some of the top medical schools around the world have shown that shorter sleep hours was one of the major factors responsible for various cardiovascular and coronary heart disease risks such as hypertension, elevated heart rates and less variable heart rates, increased coronary artery calcification, high CRP or higher levels of C- reactive protein. Additionally, the rise in blood sugar levels poses another serious threat since diabetes is highly dangerous for heart health. Obesity is another major concern that builds up strain on the heart. Less sleep creates more production of the hormone 'ghrelin', which is responsible for increasing one's appetite.
In adolescents and teens, not getting enough sleep leads to higher cholesterol levels, higher blood pressure levels, higher BMI and also poses a significant risk of them switching to unhealthy coping habits like smoking, binge eating or unhealthy food choices, less motivation to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle etc.
Sleep apnea is a particular sleep disorder that is a strong risk factor for the heart as it affects the nervours system along with increasing blood pressure levels and the chances of having a stroke. People with this sleep disorder often experience intervals in their breathing pattern during their sleep. This constant interruption activates the body's flight or fight mechanism, causes an increase in adrenaline and an increase in the sympathetic nervous system's activities (the SNS system regulates the heart rate and blood vessel constriction). Increased SNS activity means more pressure on the heart. Chances of high blood pressure and coronary heart disease doubles up for people diagnosed with sleep apnea.
The adverse effects of sleep deprivation on our health are tremendous. What may seem like a normal thing initially can eventually become a pattern and the sooner this is addressed, the better it is. The body has a natural response mechanism to signal the lack of adequate sleep or disrupted sleep patterns. In the long run, this becomes a serious health risk. Yet, most of us tend to miss out on getting enough good sleep, whether periodically or on a frequent basis. Blame it on the stress of our urban lifestyles or the demands of a hectic life. This also has a lot to do with our habits (not necessarily all the time, but usually in most cases) which can be altered with a little lifestyle modification, the right effort and the dedication to stick to it.
If you're facing any sleep related issue, we are there to help! Reach out to one of our consultants any time of the week and let us help you work through it.

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